Jewish World Review Feb. 4, 2002/ 22 Shevat 5762

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Consumer Reports

Historical revisionism


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com -- NEED a quick reminder of the poor state of American education? Ellen Sorokin reports last week in the Washington Times that New Jersey's Dept. of Education has excluded George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin-those heretical dead white males-the Pilgrims and the Mayflower from the state's American history curriculum. In addition, Sorokin says, there's a 13-year controversy over whether students ought to even mess with the Declaration of Independence.

She writes: "Last summer, the New Jersey state legislature rejected the measure, which would have required students to recite a 56-word passage from the document every day. Some opponents said reciting the passage would do little to improve students' understanding of history. Others argued the passage, which begins 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal' was insensitive to women and blacks. That phrase was written at a time when slavery was legal in the United States."

Oh, and also when democracy was born.

Meanwhile, in Tempe, AZ, two adolescents at the Connolly Middle School were punished for hugging on school grounds. Collin Neal and Jessamy Benington, both 14, received three days of "in-school intervention," which meant they had to attend a "special class."

Maybe I'm Enron-dazed, but does this make any sense? When I was an eighth-grader at Simpson Junior High School in Huntington, kids were doing a lot more than hugging between classes, and hardly a teacher raised an eyebrow. But-and perhaps it seems quaint today-those same students knew their country was comprised of 50 states; knew that Millard Fillmore was a White House dud; were familiar with Patrick Henry and Thomas Paine; and knew that Teddy Roosevelt took a bullet during his 1912 Bull Moose presidential campaign and still gave a scheduled speech.

FUNNY PAPER

Finally, I must pass on an excerpt from "Note from Kim," which appears in February's Paper. Kim's an owner of the now-thin monthly, shorn of its liquor and tobacco advertisements, but she's "optimistic" that the WTC murders will bring back the "edge" to New York City.

She writes, possibly on some intoxicant: "The landlords may still be on their bilking binge, but believe me it won't be for long. Their greed will surely cause many casualties this season, but at a certain point, it's about supply and demand. And then they'll have to step up to the plate. When enough freaked-out families and out-of-work yuppies have fled downtown for their country homes, and enough apartments and storefronts are sitting empty, rents will hopefully fall again. Only then will it be possible for that great edge to come back to New York-that unpredictable character that made this city the center of everything. When that happens, the crazy kids will dream and lust again to move here to make their mark, and then there will come a great revival: a cultural explosion reflecting the huge esthetic shift that is upon us at this historical time. And I can't wait. Once again, I will see my old friend New York City become the huge, insane, bubbling petri dish it once was, turning my home back into the cultural ground zero that it was meant to be. Amen."

Kim omits the plain fact that it's those "out-of-work" yuppies who once watched the clock at ad agencies and made decisions about $50 million budgets, a portion of which would wind up in Paper's pages. And it was those same "yuppies" who frequented the many restaurants that were given puff reviews in Kim's magazine. I guess this publisher is feeling nostalgic not only for that "bubbling petri dish," but also for the days when Paper was an all-volunteer, one-page newsprint foldout.

Cool. Pass the Goya tins.


JWR contributor "Mugger" -- aka Russ Smith -- is the editor-in-chief and CEO of New York Press (www.nypress.com). Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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© 2002, Russ Smith